Back to all news

The Power of the Swords – by Jan Hunnybell

Swords are generally seen in terms of conflict and tend to cause apprehension. Relating to the element of air, they represent the mind, intellect, attitudes, the way we think and therefore, how we communicate. We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword – and that can be said of the tongue and the mind too. Our thoughts, words and deeds are powerful.

A major life lesson is to learn through experience that our thoughts and attitudes can and do determine the quality of our life. More importantly, we need to learn that we have the power to change them. Our ‘swords’ can be weapons of mass destruction or agents of healing and creativity, depending on how they are used.

Recently I’ve connected the cards in the suit of Swords to how we lose energy. Swords, whether real or metaphorical, cut and injure. Remember the old saying ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me?’ It isn’t true! If someone stabs us and we are not protected, we will bleed. Blood is our life force and whether we are wounded physically or psychically, cuts allow life energy to leak from us.

People will continue suffering the results of their wounds, whether inflicted physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, until they learn how to heal the wound, stop the bleeding and conserve and regenerate their strength. Psychic wounds take longer to heal than physical injuries, primarily because they are unseen. We may not even be aware of their existence – yet they continue to damage us until they are recognised.

 

The first cut is the deepest.

Our most painful wounds tend to arise early in life, although I believe their true origins are in past lives. They recur as childhood hurts and then set up patterns of behaviour in our lives not to make life miserable but to be recognised, so they may be healed. This healing requires new ways of thinking. Finding the gift hidden within our challenges rather than remaining a victim to them heals the wounds and stems energy loss.

The following are some ideas of how the Swords (using the Rider-Waite deck) may represent loss/preservation/regeneration of energy. These are my own early morning, random thoughts, not the result of any research other than my own observations.

The upright Ace of Swords represents triumph and a fresh start, yet even the excitement of new projects can cause energy loss. After the initial rush of energy that anticipation generates, comes the hard slog or realisation that it’s not as easy as we thought. Reversed, the Ace can represent defeat, loss of energy, and also fear: the greatest energy drain of all. This reminds me of thumbs up and thumbs down: ‘thumbs up’ from the Roman Emperor meant living to see another day; ‘thumbs down’ represented the biggest loss of energy possible – and a meal for the lions! Of course, the reversed Ace in a reading does not mean anything quite so drastic, but perhaps something needs to end. Maybe how we deal with problems, our negative thinking or a tendency to judge…

Are you the person holding the crossed swords in card Two? Think about how much energy goes into keeping the peace and denying that there may be a problem. In the broken-hearted Three, so much energy is lost by holding on to relationships, regrets and nursing our sorrow. Rejection and betrayal are painful – but we increase the pain by rejecting ourselves and stabbing ourself even more.

 

The Four suggests time out for recovery. Use meditation, contemplation and prayer to release the pain to a higher power. How do we deal with disappointment or victory? The Five suggests that gloating over our triumphs or being devastated by our losses are both unwise responses. If we are graceful in victory and remain dignified in defeat, holding our head up and moving on, we’ve learned the lesson.

The Six has an air of sadness. There can be enormous energy loss in moving on from the past – but releasing regret and resentment and facing change as a new and exciting challenge can regenerate our energy supply. Seven shows someone sneaking around to take what they want, which may seem the only way, but uses lots of energy. Some people get a buzz from seeing what they can get away with, but most of us feel guilty being underhanded and manipulative…

The Eight represents the power of the mind to bind us to commitments and duties and again requires new approaches to old problems. The Nine I relate to very well – concerns are magnified in the middle of the night; aches and pains become terminal and minor gaffes take on nightmare proportions. The answer may be to concentrate on something else until daylight comes… In the Ten, the worst has happened: it’s over! While there is tremendous loss of energy when we are betrayed, at least we now know. It hurts, but the lesson is not to nurse our wounds but to let go and be reborn to a new day.

 

In the court cards the immature Page is full of ideas but tends to swish the sword around, sometimes ineffectively, sometimes dangerously, not yet understanding the power he or she possesses and needing to experiment. That dashing Knight in shining armour makes an exciting companion but a dangerous foe – and probably a challenging partner! He just goes for it; unfortunate for those who get in the way! A whirlwind of energy, he has the power to exhilarate or annihilate…

The Queen? Well, many people seem to have her as their mother-in-law! I like the Queen of Swords; as I’ve got older and stronger I can admire and integrate some of her qualities. She’s strong and forthright, helping the less bold amongst us to develop our armour. She can have a cutting tongue – but it may cut through to the truth and heart of the matter if she uses it with wisdom.

Finally the King – ah, Excalibur! The sword of truth and life… The King looks burdened and restricted, knowing he has ultimate authority and must use his sword well. The Queen holds her sword straight because she knows she’s right – it’s black and white. The King doesn’t have the luxury of such certainty, holding his sword more tentatively, at an angle. He holds the highest office because he understands and recognises that there are always shades of grey and rarely are situations clear cut. Knowing that he doesn’t know everything qualifies him for the authority and the burden of kingship; a heavy crown to bear.

Be aware of the true power of the Swords – don’t let fear blind you to their energy and the important lessons and blessings in disguise they bring. They are not just about fighting with others. Often they are about our inner struggle. Something I wrote a while back in my journal seems a fitting ending to this article: Let your words; your tongue, be like Excalibur, only cutting through to truth and love. Let that be your strength. That is what Excalibur represents, righteousness and victory. The greatest victory is the one over the self. I guess we are all working on that one…


Published in the Journal of the Tarot Guild of Australia Inc. The Magician, #23, Summer 2006-2007
Want to read more? Purchase your digital copy of this issue of The Magician in our online shop.

Magician Issue 23